Auto Accidents in the Age of COVID-19
For some, traffic and car accidents are synonymous with Los Angeles, but in the first few months of the California Stay at Home Order, authorities noticed a sudden drop in major accidents. This was likely due to the lack of vehicles on the road, as accidents are largely limited to single-vehicle collisions outside of rush hour in major cities. Sadly, this reprieve appears to be at an end as more and more people are going back to work and crowding LA roads.
Auto Accidents and Traffic Rates
Research into auto accident fatalities in the past few decades has revealed a unique relationship between car crashes and congestion. When roadways are packed with vehicles, drivers are often traveling at slower speeds and more aware of the vehicles around them. This added sense of awareness can slow down the chances of being involved in a fatal accident as drivers are less likely to speed or drive recklessly.
However, that does not completely reduce the accident rate. Simply because there are more cars on the roads, there is a higher chance of being involved in an accident, including collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists.
In contrast, single-vehicle accidents can increase when there are fewer vehicles on the road. This is because with more open roadways, drivers are more likely to drive at high-speeds, make negligent turns, and ignore stop signs and lights. This is most commonly seen at later hours of the night as bars are closing, as drunk drivers may head out on major LA highways and be involved in a collision.
As a result of these factors, drivers are more likely to be involved in fatal accidents when congestion drops.
So, what happened when COVID-19 entered the equation?
COVID-19’s Impact on Crashes
Somewhat as predicted, Los Angeles residents saw a real-life portrayal of the relationship between congestion and car accidents. Back in April, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti noted a sudden drop in car accident reports in March by about 50% when compared to the first half to the month, according to a report by NPR. However, this came with a warning to avoid speeding on the now mostly empty highways.
As expected, that warning fell on deaf ears as reckless driving became the new norm, and traffic deaths rose dramatically across California, as reported by ABC7 News. This is especially distressing when one considers a similar report from the Los Angeles Police Department, which noted that the majority of accident victims were not single-vehicle drivers, but pedestrians and cyclists, according to the LAist.
Heading into July, authorities have noted that traffic is back to pre-COVID-19 levels and they are seeing more rear-ends and sideswipes than the single-vehicle accidents of March and April. With the stop-and-go state of reopening in LA County, it is unclear if a statewide lockdown is in the near future and, with it, a decline in congestion again. However, in addition to the fall and rise of traffic due to COVID-19, there is also another issue that affects drivers: insurance.
The Risks of an Uninsured or Underinsured Accident
Because of the rise in unemployment and economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, many drivers have slashed their car insurance rates by either lowering their policy limits or canceling them outright. Many may feel they do not need the added costs since the Stay at Home Order limited how often people would go out. The California Department of Insurance also ordered auto insurance companies to refund premiums to drivers affected by the Stay at Home Order as a means of alleviating the financial burdens on consumers.
While it is understandable that many LA families needed to cut costs, the side-effect of these savings is that more and more underinsured and uninsured drivers could be on the road. Those who did not request extensions or still had issues making their premiums likely allowed their policies to lapse. Many may have assumed that they don’t need to worry about driving without insurance if they are only going to pick up groceries, but accidents are actually more likely to occur near one’s home. If someone is involved in an uninsured accident, the impact could be devastating for the victim.
In addition to uninsured accidents, many drivers may have lowered their coverage and now have minimum policy limits. For car accident victims, this means they have a lower policy limit to file a claim against, which can also be worrisome if they have catastrophic injuries. In both instances, car accident victims may have to file against their own uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage to receive compensation.
Handling a Car Accident During Troubling Times
The best step a car accident can take during this period is to contact an experienced and knowledgeable legal team. At Aghabegian & Associates, PC, our lawyers can review your case and determine what insurance policies you can file against to receive compensation for your injuries. We understand that this is a difficult period for everyone in LA County and are devoted to guiding car accident victims through it. With over 40 years of experience, our Glendale car accident attorneys have recovered more than $125 million in compensation for our clients and are staunch advocates for getting our clients the money they deserve after being in an accident with a negligent driver. To learn if we are the right firm for you, contact us at (818) 507-4311 to schedule a free consultation.
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